Category Archives: English

homeschool langage arts grade 3 at navigatingbyjoy

Homeschool Language Arts Curriculum – Grade 3

Homeschool language arts grade 3 at navigatingbyjoy

Our Grade 3 (UK Year 4) language arts programme is centred around Brave Writer’s The Arrow.

We love how The Arrow exposes us to new literature and inspires us to use language in new and exciting ways.  I say “us” because part of the Brave Writer philosophy is that parents learn alongside their kids – I probably get as much out of The Arrow as Cordie does!

Goals

Our language arts goals are for Cordie (9):

  • to enjoy using language to express herself
  • to improve her written communication skills so as to enhance her self-expression
  • to appreciate great literature, and
  • to learn in a fun way how to spell accurately and use good grammar

Curriculum

The Arrow

Books

This term we looked at the “hero’s journey” plot structure as we read the fantasy story Where the Mountain Meets the Moon.  We also enjoyed Frindle, a funny and thought-provoking story about a ten year old boy who makes up a word.

Each issue of The Arrow highlights a literary element. We especially enjoyed looking at “the hero’s journey” plot structure as we read Where the Mountain Meets the Moon.

Copywork and Dictation

Each Arrow contains four passages from the month’s book to be used for copywork and dictation. These simple practices help teach punctuation, grammar and spelling and  and introduce concepts like paragraph indentation and how to write dialogue.

Grammar

In my heart I know that The Arrow probably provides all the grammar practice Cordie needs. But sometimes I get to wondering why, then, do schools and most homeschool curricula spend so long teaching the mechanics of grammar? My compromise with my inner worrier was to look for a grammar book that Cordie would enjoy using independently.

Nelson Grammar is an old school book that was donated by emigrating friends. Cordie loves it.  Each unit is nicely set out over a double page spread.

Cordie’s using Pupil Book 4 which is apparently for Year 6 (Grade 5) students. You can preview the inside of each book at Google Books if you’re not sure which level would best suit your child.

Nelson Grammar

Spelling

Our shelves also contain a number of spelling books collected over the years. We selected CGP  KS2 Spelling (Book 3) because Cordie can work through it independently and the wordlists were pitched at about the right level.

Each list of 23 words is designed to be read, copied, then covered and written again, and finally clues are given for each word so that the student can test herself.

In theory Cordie learns one wordlist a week; in practice she doesn’t do it that often. I don’t insist – I’m not convinced spelling programmes are the best way to learn to spell.  But I like knowing that one is available to Cordie should the mood take her!

Language Arts Websites

There’s lots of practice available on subscription websites like Grid Club, Education City and Study Ladder, and free websites like BBC Bitesize. These sites make learning good English so much fun – incomparable with the mind-numbing reading comprehensions I endured at primary school!

Poetry Teatime

Last term we celebrated poetry tea every Monday afternoon with local homeschooling friends. Sadly our friends have now moved to the other end of the country, but the poetry tea habit is firmly in place and we have several other friends keen to join us.  We even held poetry tea with Daddy over the Christmas break!

poetry tea

Other Writing

I never set Cordie writing assignments other than those we work on together using The Arrow, but she writes spontaneously and often – comic strips, a diary, recipes, stories, songs, letters and poems and posters (usually aimed at her brother).

She also from time to time writes “mini essays” (her description) about aspects of her project work, like this one about electrons.

electrons mini essay

When we have time, Cordie creates history notebook pages. I like the way notebooking helps organise thoughts on a topic.  It also develops planning and organisational skills which will be increasingly used later on.

Writing Mentor

Finally, Cordie is going to be having a few creative writing sessions with a home-educating mum friend who is also a homeschool tutor, an arrangement which came out of a casual conversation between us. Cordie loves the idea.

I think it will be a great opportunity for her to have the benefit of someone else’s perspective and will add some positive accountability to inspire her to write.

Reading

Of course, no language arts curriculum would be complete without a mention of reading.  Luckily, this requires very little planning in Cordie’s case as she reads (or listens to) everything book can find. (I have to warn her off certain books in our shared Audible account.  I’m not sure she’s quite ready for Stephen Fry’s autobiography!)

Recent family car-listens have been The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, and Gerald Durrell’s wonderful My Family and Other Animals (part of his Corfu trilogy). We’re just starting on the Narnia series which Jasper (7) hasn’t read – Cordie made me read them to her back-to-back a few years ago, but we’re both more than happy to re-experience C.S. Lewis’s magical fantasies.

Other Posts You Might Like

Grade 2 Language Arts: Brave Writer’s The Arrow

Our Homeschool Curriculum: English (Language Arts) – Grade 2

Grammar Land: A Living Book about the Parts of Speech

Shakespeare for Younger Children in 3 Easy Steps

End of Term Homeschool Curriculum Review – English (Language Arts) Grade 1

Poetry Tea

Homeschool Language Arts for the Dyslexic and Dysgraphic Child

midsummer poetry at navigating by joy homeschoolers

Celebrating Midsummer with Poetry

midsummer poetry at navigating by joy homeschoolers

Midsummer’s Night  is my favourite night of the whole year.  I don’t much like holidays or even birthdays, when there’s pressure to do certain things.  But on Midsummer’s Night there are no expectations.

I feel a connection with the earth, and ancient people (of which I am, ironically, reminded when I see traffic signs warning of delays near Stonehenge!).

Once, before children, Big J and I celebrated Midsummer with an evening picnic in London’s Hyde Park (back in the days when Hyde Park was on our doorstep).  Most years I don’t actually do anything in particular on this day.  But I always enjoy marking the occasion in the quiet of my own mind.

Earlier this evening I put out our poetry books in preparation for poetry tea with friends tomorrow morning.  And I lit a sweet “Midsummer’s Night” candle I came across at the garden centre last week.

When C came home from her Stagecoach class she began looking through the poetry books as she ate her snack.  I joined her, and we ended up reading poems aloud to one another for a joyful half hour.

Completely spontaneous, loving, togetherness on my favourite day of the year.   [Deep, long,  blissful sigh of contentment and appreciation.]  🙂

The Arrow: Grade 2 Language Arts at Navigating by Joy

Grade 2 Language Arts: Brave Writer’s The Arrow

The Arrow: Grade 2 Language Arts at Navigating by JoyC and I had so much fun – and learned so much (yes, me too) – this week doing an exercise from Brave Writer’s The Arrow.

What is The Arrow?

The Arrow uses one classic novel each month to teach language arts to children aged from 8 to 11.  It places strong emphasis on literary elements – elements which “make writing pop”. C has a great imagination and her writing is naturally crafted from vibrant language.  I think The Arrow will help refine her grammar, punctuation and spelling skills while nurturing her unique writer’s “voice” and giving her the means to use, in her own writing, literary tools she enjoys in her reading. As she becomes more consciously aware of these literary elements, I think she will also begin to appreciate literature more deeply. We’re are using The Arrow in combination with other aspects of the Brave Writer lifestyle, such as Poetry Tea.

Novel of the Month: The Phantom Tollbooth

The Phantom Tollbooth: Grade 2 language artsOur first novel (from August 2011’s The Arrow) is The Phantom Tollbooth, which grabs the reader’s attention in the opening paragraph with the magical words “There was once a boy named…” and then hooks us in with a series of contrasts using the literary element of surprise.  The Arrow points out how punctuation – in particular, the em dash – is used in the passage to create literary power, for example in the very first sentence:

“There was once a boy named Milo who didn’t know what to do with himself — not just sometimes, but always.”

Opening Hooks Exercise

To look at more opening hooks in action we gathered a pile of novels – old favourites and some from my read-aloud wish list – and took turns reading the opening lines aloud. We talked about how each opening introduced us to the flavour of the novel – humorous, magical, etc – and described characters, places or situations we wanted to find out more about. We piled the books in order of how effective their opening hooks were, with the most powerful at the top. (C had the casting vote!)

C”s favourite hook was from her old favourite, “You’re a Bad Man, Mr Gum!”:

“Mr Gum was a fierce old man with a red beard and two bloodshot eyes that stared out at you like an octopus curled up in a bad cave.  He was a complete horror who hated children, animals, fun and corn on the cob.  What he liked was snoozing in bed all day, being lonely and scowling at things.”

This reminded C how much she loves Mr Gum, and she spent the rest of the day re-reading Mr Gum books!

I liked the start of “The Return of the Twelves”:

“Max sat on the bare stairs below the attic, wondering whether to tell anyone.”

We haven’t yet read The Return of the Twelves but I’m sure we soon will – we want to find out what had happened to Max!

Interestingly, we decided that the opening of “Heidi”, which we we have just finished, and enjoyed immensely, had the least effective opening hook (at least in the opening paragraph) out of our selection  – which was a nice reminder of how authors use a variety of ways to appeal to readers.

More Brave Writer: Language Arts for Grade 1

Next time I’ll post about J and I’s first experiences using Brave Writer’s The Wand.

A Midsummer Night's Dream watercolour crayon picture by C (8)

Shakespeare for Younger Children in 3 Easy Steps

A Midsummer Night's Dream watercolour crayon picture by C (8)
"A Midsummer Night's Dream" by C (8)

Shakespeare wrote brilliant plays. Younger children may not be ready to experience them in their original form, but they can certainly enjoy the stories. And if they become familiar with the stories early on, it’s a much shorter step to appreciating them later in the bard’s own beautiful words.

What was for me at senior school a relentless chore of trying to grasp plot among a load of archaic words,  can instead – for those already fans of the stories – be a fun decoding process which quickly gives way to an appreciation of the subtleties, humour and beauty of Shakespeare’s language.

Shakespeare in 3 Easy Steps

I’m doing Shakespeare with C(8) this year as part of our grade 2 English curriculum.  We’re following a very simple process for each play:

1. Read the story

Shakespeare StoriesWe’re using The Shakespeare Stories, a set of 16 plays which I got from Amazon for about £15.  Each tells its story in engaging language and contains, at the start, a sketch of the main characters. Most can be read aloud in less than thirty minutes. Not every scene is included, of course, but the main parts of the story are covered.

Monday is our Shakespeare day. We read aloud a story, either entirely in one session or over a couple of weeks, then we discuss it.  After Hamlet, our discussion focused on C gleefully adding up the number of characters murdered in it.

2. Watch the play

shakespeare the animated talesThe following week we watch a thirty minute film version of the play in the form of Shakespeare: The Animated Tales (available free on YouTube). I like these because they use mostly original language, and have subtitles.

3. Do a project

Next C (8) does a mini-project of her choice, to consolidate her understanding of the play. For example, when we did A Midsummer Night’s Dream she made a watercolour crayon picture (see above).

For Hamlet, she chose to make puppets of Hamlet and his father’s ghost, wrote a short script and acted it out while I recorded it on my iPhone.  All very spontaneous, easy and fun!

Hamlet Puppets
Hamlet Puppets

Optional Bonus Step

Copywork – I usually make a worksheet or two containing quotes from our current play to include in C’s weekly copywork.

Additional Resources

There are many re-tellings of Shakespeare available, so it should be easy to find one to suit your children and educational style.

  • Stories from ShakespeareC uses the beautiful illustrations in Geraldine McCaughrean’s Stories From Shakespeare as inspiration for her projects. One nice feature of this book is the sidebar quotations from the plays.  I anticipate using the stories themselves next time around.  We have read one story from this book and both C and J(6) enjoyed it, but for now we prefer the brevity and accessible style of The Shakespeare Stories.
  • Another book we’ll no doubt come back to is Mary Lamb’s Tales From Shakespeare, which contains concise re-tellings of twenty plays.
  • bravo mr shakespeareMr. William Shakespeare’s Plays tells the stories of seven plays in comic strip form.  I’m awaiting a copy of this one so I can’t comment in detail yet but I like that the plays are “performed” at the Globe Theatre of Shakespeare’s day.  The sequel, Bravo, Mr. William Shakespeare! presents a further seven plays.

For much more on studying Shakespeare in your homeschool (or anywhere!), including oodles of fabulous links to free resources, see Jimmie’s Shakespeare For Children Squidoo lens.

Grammar-land: A Living Book about the Parts of Speech

We use living books in our homeschool for most subjects:  history, science, music, art, and even maths.  Books which are passionately written,  bring their subjects to life, and are as enjoyable to read – for both adults and children – as they are educational.  But a living book to teach the names and functions of the parts of speech? Surely not!

Enter Grammar-land – 135 years old and brimming with more life than any twenty-first century workbook ever did!

Where is Grammar-land?

The story takes place in – you guessed it – Grammar-land, “a place every bit as real as Fairy-land, and much more important”.  Grammar-land is ruled over by stern, old Judge Grammar, who is “far mightier than any Fairy Queen, for he rules over real kings and queens down here in Matter-of-fact-land”.

The Parts-of-Speech

We are told that just as William the Conqueror divided England among his nobles, when Judge Grammar took possession of Grammar-land he gave all the words to his nine followers.  He called these nine followers the Parts-of-speech, “and to one or other of them every word in Grammar-land was given.”

Included among the Parts-of-Speech there is “rich Mr. Noun, and his useful friend Pronoun; little ragged Article, and talkative Adjective; busy Dr. Verb, and Adverb; perky Preposition, convenient Conjunction, and that tiresome Interjection, the oddest of them all.”

The Premise

As some of the Parts-of-Speech are richer (have more words than) the others, they are given to quarrelling, and one day they make so much noise that they wake Judge Grammar from a very comfortable nap.

Angrily, Judge Grammar summons his learned counsellors, Dr. Syntax and Serjeant Parsing, and demands an explanation for the noise.  The counsellors explain to Judge Grammar that some of the Parts-of-Speech are greedy, and have stolen their neighbours’ words:

“Some of them have got hold of new words, which the others say they had no right to make, and some of them are even inclined to think that Dr. Syntax is old-fashioned, and need not be obeyed.”

To prevent the laws of Grammar-land going to wreck and ruin, Judge Grammar summons every Part-of-Speech before his court, intending to settle any disagreements once for all.  The judge also invites “our friends in Schoolroom-shire … to keep an account of what we do”, since “if we wish to have peace among the Parts-of-Speech it is most important that the people of Matter-of-fact-land should know how to use them well.”

Sneaky Practice

In subsequent chapters, Judge Grammar cross-examines each Part-of-Speech in turn to find out which words properly belong to it, and how those words may be identified.

To help the children of Schoolroom-shire in their role of keeping account, Judge Grammar sets a short practice exercise at the end of each chapter.  Jessica Cain  has generously shared beautifully formatted versions of the exercises here.

How We’re Using Grammar-land

Listening to one chapter of Grammar-land per week has been a fun part of our Grade 2 English curriculum this term.  I’m not a fan of repetitive grammar drills or rote-learning of lists of prepositions and the like, so the rest of our grammar curriculum consists of good quality literature, daily copywork and games like Mad Libs.

C (8) is going to start learning Latin soon (we’re both loving the look of Visual Latin) and what she’s learning from Grammar-land is a great foundation for beginning to understand concepts like adjective agreement and verb declension.

Grammar-land for Free

You can find the complete text of Grammar-land free online,  here, for example, and there is also a beautifully narrated free audio version.  I came across Grammar-Land among various other gems I bought as part of a bargain package from Yesterday’s Classics.  It’s also available from Amazon.

Now, to find a living book on punctuation.  Suggestions welcome!

More Language Arts Posts

Grade 2 Language Arts: Brave Writer’s The Arrow

Shakespeare for Younger Children in 3 Easy Steps

Our Homeschool Curriculum – English (Language Arts) Grade 2

Our Homeschool Curriculum – English (Language Arts) Grade 2

C (aged 8) began homeschooling a year ago.  Words are a strong suit for her  – she is very articulate, has great cursive handwriting, and reads quickly and fluently. She also has strong opinions about what she does and doesn’t want to do, and one of my challenges is to find a careful balance between boring her and demanding too much!

In this area, my aims for C are:

  • to develop her skills in the mechanics of writing without subjecting her to excessive drilling,
  • to provide an environment which stimulates her creativity and enriches her vocabulary,
  • to provide access to a steady stream of resources to help satisfy her appetite for words.

I mentioned in my post about our Grade 1 English that I am quite “unschool-y” about language arts; I want these skills to be learned as much as possible in a real-world context, and there are plenty of opportunities for that to happen.

General Approach

It’s important for all writers to keep the mechanics of writing from getting in the way of creativity, and this is especially true for children, for whom the gap between the two skill-sets is larger than for adults.  By “mechanics” I mean not just the physical process of handwriting but also the niceties of grammar, spelling, punctuation etc.  I’m not under-estimating the importance of getting those things right – as a former lawyer I’m all too aware of how a misplaced comma can change the whole meaning of a sentence –  but I also know that sometimes it’s best just to get the words down on paper and then tidy them up later.  I love that the very first exercise in the Nanowrimo Young Writer’s Program  (which C and I dabbled with and will return to later this year) is to draw a picture of your inner editor and then lock him/her/it somewhere out of reach where they can’t intrude on the creative process!

Strewing  reading material works very well with C.  If I leave a book on the table she will be read over a meal, near the sofa and I will come down early in the morning and find her engrossed, or on the upstairs landing and it will disappear into her room. With the recent loss of our guinea pigs (RIP Oscar and Ollie) and the consequent freeing-up of floor space, I’ve installed a new bookshelf in our living area with slanted shelves for displaying books relating to our studies. (Ikea magazine rails  work great for this.)

Resources

Grammar

Evan-Moor Daily Paragraph Editing (Grade 2)

Daily Paragraph Editing  provides near-real-world grammar practice.  Each unit is made up of four related paragraphs containing various spelling and grammatical errors.  Different genres of writing are covered, such as non-fiction, biography, realistic fiction, historical fiction.

I print out the relevant paragraphs from  the e-Book, and C puts on her editor’s hat and hunts for all the mistakes the “copywriter” has made, keeping to hand the book’s list of standard proofreading marks and checklist of proofreading errors while she works.

I look ahead  to see what’s coming up, and discuss anything new with C in advance.  I stay close by while C works so she can raise any queries with me as she goes along.  If I notice that she’s unsure about a new concept (for example, plural possessive apostrophes recently)  I plan a bit more practice on it over the next few weeks.

Mad Libs

Both C and J love mad libs. They’re such great practice for both creativity and knowing the parts of speech, yet it doesn’t feel like “school” at all – win win! We’ve been using Best Of Mad Libs .

Spelling

I wasn’t sure whether to use a specific spelling program with C at all as she is such a naturally good speller.  But there are words that she misspells and although these might naturally be picked up over time, I followed Jimmie’s  tip and invested in Spelling Power, on the basis that it will last right through school and I can use it with J as well.  Spelling Power has placement tests so the student begins the program at exactly the right level, and C seems to be really enjoying it so far.  Her biggest complaint is that she gets so few words wrong on the pre-tests, she doesn’t get to do many of the fun exercises like spelling out words with her finger in a tray of salt!

Creative Writing

I’d love for C to write more stories.  She wrote some great ones back when she was at school (though often with much whining, at least when they were set for homework).  A few times I’ve suggested some writing, but so far C hasn’t been keen.  She’s enjoyed a couple of exercises from The Writer’s Jungle, but I’m encouraged by Writer’s Jungle author Julie Bogart’s advice that most children start writing in earnest when they’re about 9 or 10 years old.  In the meantime one of her favourite pastimes is to invent characters in picture form, giving them names and qualities; I’m hoping this is good practice for character-development in future story-writing!  (Incidentally the Homeschool Buyers’ Co-op is currently offering a 50% discount on Brave Writer products.)

We’ve also been reading aloud Spilling Ink, a light-hearted look at the creative-writing process by two female novelists,  which is a fun and nicely aligned with my motto of feeling good around “school subjects”.

Literature

C reads a lot on her own – mostly library books and books on her new Kindle. She also listens to library audiobooks and we listen to Audible  purchases together – we recently finished Anne Of Green Gables and we’re onto Anne Of Avonlea.  I always read aloud a chapter book to C and J together as a bedtime story.

This term I plan to do more reading aloud of good quality literature and great stories – stories from Shakespeare, Homer and other classics – as part of our school day.

Extra Resources I’m Planning To use

I’ve just subscribed to the Evan-Moor subscription service Teacher-Filebox  which gives unlimited access to all Evan-Moor’s eBooks.  (30% off  via the Homeschool Buyers Co-op.)  I’m looking forward to exploring Filebox.  For language arts we already use Daily Paragraph Editing (C) and Building Spelling Skills (J), and it looks like there are some good grammar resources there, like Language Fundamentals.  More about this when we’ve had a chance to play with it some more!

I’d love to hear of any extra resources people use that we might enjoy.

End of Term Homeschool Curriculum Review – English (Language Arts) Grade 1

Yesterday I wrote about the curriculum we used last term for maths, and the tweaks I’m planning this term.  Today I’m going to do the same for the English (language arts) I do with J (age 6).

What we’ve been using

Like many homeschoolers, we don’t use a complete curriculum for English but rather different methods and books for different skills.  It is probably the subject I am most “unschooly” about.  This might be because we are a small, talkative family and I tend to think that, an elementary level at the very least, being surrounded by words, books and good quality conversation counts for a lot.

Handwriting

J has been using Handwriting Without Tears for the last two terms.  He moved from My Printing Book to Printing Power at the start of this term after a never-before-seen two-week spurt of enthusiasm for handwriting (seriously.  We would find him in bed at night, fast asleep still clutching “My Printing Book”, mid-pencil stroke.)  I think maybe he thought if he finished the book he would be done with writing; alas for him Printing Power arrived, and on handwriting went.

Despite the self-imposed handwriting-boot camp, writing continues to be a chore for J, but I’m reassured to know that this is very common for boys and that things usually fall into place by the age of eight or nine once the requisite neurological and motor skills have been acquired.  So for now we shall continue with a page or two of HWOT every day, while in other subjects I often let J dictate his work. One big plus of homeschooling is that a dislike of handwriting need not slow down progress in any other subject.

Phonics

J is a natural right-brained whole-word reader which is why I think it’s important to continue teaching him phonics until his reading is completely fluent. As it is, he can read pretty much anything he wants (mostly comics, his favourite websites, and comics and books about his favourite websites) and he has read several chapter books, but I intend to continue with dedicated reading instruction until I see J regularly reading chapter books.  (I know he loves stories from our read-alouds and the number of audiobooks he gets through!)

We use Schofield & Sims Sound Phonics workbooks (currently Phase 5 Book 2) which we’re both very happy with.  J  does a page a day for the four days we do formal school (the other day the children do music lessons and we attend a home education centre). The Sound Phonics series continues for several more workbooks so at the moment my plan is to continue with them.

Spelling

At J’s level I see spelling more as additional handwriting and phonics practice than as actually building spelling skills for their own sake.  (Or does that give away my utter lack of teaching expertise in this area?)  I am a naturally good speller, as is C (8), so J’s seemingly random approach to constructing words leaves me baffled (how can anyone spell “come” correctly and immediately afterwards spell “came” as “kame”?!)  We’ve been using the word lists and some of the exercises in Evan-Moor’s Building Spelling Skills Grade 1  and J scores well on his weekly spelling tests.  But next term I’m thinking of switching to a Spelling Power approach,  which I’ve just started using with C.  Although J is too young to use the full Spelling Power system, there is a section in the massive tome book on working with younger children which I’ll hopefully get round to reading soon!

Writing

All J’s creative writing is ad hoc and informal.  He enjoys composing poems and stories (would probably choose do it all day if only I could keep up with his dictation!). Occasionally I can persuade him to write his own work, which he’ll agree to if it’s something short like an acrostic poem. And I’m thinking at some point he might benefit from learning about beginnings, middles and ends – but there’s plenty of time for that. 🙂

Literature/Narration

We’ve always got a read-aloud fiction chapter book on the go ( it feels like it’s been one Harry Potter or other for as long as I can remember!), and J listens to lots of audiobooks from the library.  Poetry Tea is a regular event in our house. We like seeing movie or theatrical adaptations of books we’ve read (yes, Harry Potter, but we also enjoyed the film version of E. Nesbitt’s Five Children And It, and were lucky enough to see an excellent adaptation of The Phoenix And The Carpet at the theatre recently.  During the months between our reading of the book and seeing the play, I enjoyed hearing J’s wonderings about things like “I wonder how they’re going to do the bit where the children go to the theatre, in a theatre?!”)

Sometimes I read aloud Greek myths (which ties in with this year’s ancient history) or from Geraldine McCaughrean’s Stories from Shakespeare  or we listen to children’s versions of Homer’s works.  One of the things I took from the classical education handbook The Well Trained Mind is the idea of exposing children to great works of literature when they are young, so that by the time they are old enough to study them in their original form they’re already familiar with the stories.

As J and C get older I’d like to be a bit more organised in the planning of our literature choices, and also – in keeping with my desire to become a bit more Charlotte Mason-like in our homeschool – getting J to narrate back to me in some way.  While I sometimes suspect that C (8) almost has the auditory equivalent of a photographic memory (anyone know the name for that?), most of the time I really have no idea how much J is taking in.  Often nothing much is forthcoming when I ask him to tell me something about what he’s heard, but then with J you never know if that’s because nothing went in, or because he just doesn’t feel like jumping through that particular hoop for you right now!  I know narration purists eschew prompting, but with J I’m thinking of using some who/when/where/what/how-type prompts following short read-aloud sections, to get him into the habit of active listening (and to reassure me that he’s listening at all!)

Overall I try to remind myself that J is only six, and that in many countries (with excellent education systems) he wouldn’t even have begun formal schooling yet.  Indeed Charlotte Mason herself believed six year olds should mostly be left to their own play.  So my priority will continue to be to provide J with an environment rich in great stories, poems and language, while staying quietly alert for signs he is ready to move onto a new level of using written words himself.  I’m thinking another large sign would be useful, reminding me of that on the “bad days”!

Poetry Tea

I love poems, and reading  poetry aloud with children brings it alive in a way it hasn’t been since I used to read “Daddy Fell into the Pond” to my little sister when I was a child.

Last week we were excited to receive our own copy of The Puffin Book Of Utterly Brilliant Poetry, which in the past we’ve enjoyed at poetry teas with friends.  The book was passed between C and J on most of our car journeys last week as I was entertained by one classic poem after another.  (Brian Patten’s “The Race To Go To Sleep” was read about every five minutes!)

Then an email yesterday from  Brave Writer’s Julie – the clever inventor of poetry tea! – reminding readers of its benefits, could not have come at a better time. We’ve spent the last week reeling from one theme park to another, making the most of our annual passes while the parks are empty enough for the children to go on their favourite rollercoasters 28 times in a row (I know. Really. But what did I expect from the progeny of two people who spent their honeymoon in Disneyworld?)  Anyway, all those topsy turvy days left us a bit out of our usual routine, so poetry tea – complete with home-baked cookies and hot chocolate – was the perfect way to get back into our groove.

Sure enough, several delightful poems later, the children seamlessly moved onto creating their own poems.  I love the process of typing as they dictate – it really frees them up to be in the flow of their words without worrying about handwriting, spelling or punctuation (all of which we work on at a different time).

 

And having seen how quickly words can be got down on a computer keyboard (as I toggled between two open documents, one for each child’s poems), C and J were eager to move onto the next thing on our schedule – touch-typing!

I got the teatowel tip from friends from C and J's old school - isn't it a great idea?
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